Stradbroke fire leaves island without power

Stradbroke fire leaves island without power

31 December 2013

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Australia –North Stradbroke Island was without mains power on Thursday afternoon as bushfires continued to burn on the island.

Energex spokesman Graham Metcalfe said the fire, which saw holidaymakers evacuated from campsites on Wednesday, had taken out the entire island’s power supply on Thursday.

There was damage to both metal towers and local wooden power poles, Mr Metcalfe said.

“The fire has taken out some pretty large power lines, which supply Dunwich, Point Lookout and Amity, which as you can imagine host a fair number of people at this time of year,” he said.

“That’s about 2200 homes and businesses, which would be pretty crowded.”

Mr Metcalfe said a helicopter was assessing the damage to the power lines, but Energex was already aware of poles having been burnt.

“They’ll need to get rebuilt and it’s not a quick repair job,” he said.

Mr Metcalfe said it was too soon to say how long it would be until power could be reconnected to the island.

Power had been restored to Macleay, Russell, Karragarra and Lamb islands, which normally received power via North Stradbroke Island, after supply was reconnected directly from the mainland.

In the meantime, Energex planned to send generators to populated areas of the island on barges, the first of which should be operational some time on Thursday night.

The fire continued to burn “safely but actively” on Thursday night, a Queensland Fire and Rescue Service spokeswoman said.

She said the fire would likely burn for several days, but posed no immediate threat to populated areas.

Fire crews worked around the clock on Wednesday night after the blaze jumped containment lines and reached at least campsites near 18 Mile Swamp, only hours after holidaymakers were evacuated.

Queensland Fire and Rescue Service Superintendent Arthur Torrance said the fire tore across bushland at 18 Mile Swamp and reached the campgrounds in five hours.

“The fire went from a few metres an hour to seven kilometres in five hours, that’s how fast it was,” he said.

“As it went through, it jumped one of our control lines at the swamp and went up out of the swamp and along the beach area where the campers would have been located.

“The fire actually went right through those campsites.”

No infrastructure was damaged, he said, because the campsites were only plots of land.

It is understood campsites 1 and 3 were destroyed.

The fire, which was sparked by lightning, has been burning in thick bushland for days on the eastern end of Alfred Martin Way (also known as Tazi Road) at Blue Lake.

The blaze has slowed, but Superintendent Torrance said a wind change expected late on Saturday could trigger another flare-up.

“We are hoping we can stop any flare-ups when the wind switches around,” he said.

Firefighters and two water-bombing helicopters were working to contain the fire on Thursday.

The last of the campers forced to leave the Main Beach campgrounds boarded a barge to the mainland on Wednesday evening.

With holiday season at its peak, there was no room for the campers to go elsewhere on the island, leaving authorities no choice but to evacuate the area.

Queensland authorities wanted to have Main Beach cleared of people before they closed the only road out.

A massive exodus began about 9.30am on Wednesday, causing lengthy traffic jams on the island.

Smoke from the blaze blanketed the township of Dunwich on Wednesday and also travelled across the bay creating a smoke haze over Brisbane’s CBD.

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